Thursday, February 3, 2011

Scott Reviews the Decemberists' "The King is Dead"

Welcome back everyone. Haven't seen any "new" movies since The Green Hornet, (mostly catching up on Oscar films and television shows) so I've decided to give music a shot.

"The King is Dead". This is the sixth full length album from folky/indie Portland, Oregon based, The Decemberists. Their most previous work before this includes "The Hazard's of Love" from 2009 and 2006's "The Crane Wife" both which seem to tell a story throughout the album. Before these 2 albums there were 3 other full lengths plus a handful of EP's. Each filled with a spectrum of folk based songs from the light and fun to the very dark or even perverted tales. Their styles on these albums were just as broad, from slower acoustic songs such as "The Crane Wife 3" to the heavier grunge influenced "The Island" which sounds like something off of a Pink Floyd or Kansas album(these tracks appear back to back on Crane Wife).

I anticipated this album very highly because, if you haven't figured it out already, I'm a Decemberists fan. So you may think this will be a very biased review but I was prepared to put this album under a microscope. What I found was indeed surprising.
The sound wasn't entirely new, yet it was the most "consistent" album as far as sound and style they have ever released. From the opening harmonica until the very end it's a very light, folky tone that even ventures into the realm of country.
"King" starts with "Don't Carry It All", and before you know it you're nodding your head to the upbeat pace. The album's pace doesn't change until the third song "Rise to Me" which slows the pace down to what sounds like very mellow classic country. The pace doesn't stay there though. It picks right back up in "Rocks in the Box" which reminds me of Charlie Daniels' "Devil Went Down to Georgia". This is followed by the beautiful "January Hymn" which features very clean acoustic 'picking'. Next up is the first single off of the album "Down By the Water". It's a nice, catchy tune and the closest thing on the album to a single.
The furthest stray off of the folk/country theme of the album is "Why We Fight", which incorporates other aspects of the band's range. My personal favorite song on the album would be "June Hymn". It has a very slow beginning by an acoustic guitar accompanied by a harmonica, a very Bob Dylan sound that I really like.
The only downfall of the album seems to be the length. At around 40 minutes it leaves you wanting a little more, especially with the band's previous albums being slightly longer. The fact that the sound is not as broad as previous was at first a con, but they perfected this style so much that I just appreciated almost every note and second. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't heard The Decemberists before(as well as their previous works), as well as fellow Decemberists fans. But if you are looking for the slightly heavier, grungy or electric version of the band, you may not like the album. I say give it a shot anyway.


Even Chucky loves the Decemberists!!!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Never Forget February 2, 2011

A toast to Jack and Meg White who, for the last 13 years, have been collectively known as The White Stripes.
Warning. I'm about to gush a lot. This band was my absolute favorite band of all time.
At the dawn of the new century I was first introduced to The White Stripes' breakout hit "Fell In Love With a Girl". It rode in on a crest started by other "The" bands (THE Strokes, THE Hives, THE Vines). I feel that this era is what defines the gap between Stripes devotees and the mere radio listeners. Many people dismissed the Stripes as the "The" craze died. But it turns out that their "the" was only part of the trend through coincidence. The White Stripes were bringing something decidedly different to the table. Of course this is not to say anything negative about the other "The" bands. I'm still an active listener of all three. But MY Beatles broke up today, so let me do my thing.

Ya I said it. My Beatles broke up today. Now it's unfair to really compare any band to the Beatles because the scope of the Beatles mythos is ongoing to this day. While I do hope that the Jack and Meg White legacy should continue to grow as they pursue other projects, my comparison is based on my reaction to the breakup. I feel how I imagine hardcore Beatles fans felt when they disbanded. I'm shocked. I'm a bit upset, but I keep telling myself it's ok. At least they'll never have a chance to suck.

Not that I ever thought they had a chance to suck anyway.

My love for the Stripes runs deep, but it wasn't always this way. In fact when I first bought "White Blood Cells" I was disappointed that "Fell In Love With a Girl" was the only song that sounded like a "The" band. I was also fifteen.

I gave it a few good listens, generally enjoyed it and chucked it aside so I could enjoy some more Blink182. I picked it up here and there, but it was not until 2003's "Elephant" that my infatuation took hold. I bought it on a whim put it on in my car. I'll never forget the next 45 minutes. This wasn't what the White Stripes sounded like in my brain. I asked myself did I miss something on that first album I bought? So, after being mind-blown by "Elephant"(the supreme highlight being "Ball and a Biscuit"), I immediately revisited "White Blood Cells". To my surprise this was more of that same sweetness I'd just listened to. What happened? My musical taste had apparently matured, and I realized that this was no "The" band, this was the motherfucking White Stripes. A crazy-grungy-bluesy-garage-rock revival with a side of sweetness and charm, here to kick some ass. I did a bit of research and soon after discovered that they had two previous albums that I hadn't heard of. I immediately bought them and felt the same enthusiasm. The self-titled premiere album was a collection of extremely lo-fi bluesy rock, and the sophomore album "De Stijl" was no different, and even featured a few covers of ooooold blues(Son House's "Death Letter" is made sublime).

These four albums dominated my cd player almost 100 percent of the time, and over the next few years I became obsessed.

Their next album was "Get Behind Me Satan", the closest thing that the Stripes have had to an experimental album. Whereas the duo had used other instruments than just their classic guitar-and-drum combo on albums before, this album contained much more use of piano and xylophone. Despite this, GBMS still had that distinct White Stripes feel. And with that the image of Jack and Meg White playing the characters of brother and sister had cemented itself into pop culture.

The Stripes' final album(in exception to their live album) was Icky Thump. Their first step away from reel-to-reel recording and towards the digital era also marked a return to their guitar-and-drum roots. And of course, it was fantastic.

It was after this album that I was finally able to see them Madison Square Garden. Needless to say, it was glorious!
This is the only time I was able to see them live. There was one time earlier that they played the Atlantic City House of Blues, a mere 40 minute drive from my house at the time, and I didn't go because I was young and stupid. I even read a book called "The Greatest Show I Ever Saw" in which a rock writer cited that that show was his favorite. I list this as my only regret in life.

Throughout my formative years the White Stripes taught me how to love music. They taught me to deny trends and define myself truthfully. They gave me a look into the history of classic blues. They even teamed up with some of my favorite artists(Michel Gondry, Conan O'Brien, Jim Jarmusch) and further cemented themselves into my being.
The Stripes have appeared in films, Jack has become a successful producer, and even had the distinct honor of performing a Bond theme. Hell, they were on the fucking Simpsons. Despite today marking the end on The White Stripes, their impact is indelible.

I don't know where Meg will go after the break up, but I can only imagine that, despite Jack's busy production schedule and his work with two other bands, they will still be involved musically, and at the very least, Meg will take her rightful place in another band.

The split is based upon the desire of the band to preserve their legacy. Mission accomplished. The Stripes' parting words are inspiring: "The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to."

So it is with this that I say thank you Jack and Meg. Thank you for being the soundtrack to my life. And thank you for pumping the brakes before you ever got a chance to suck. Now gimme a new Raconteurs album!!!!

Location:Diamond St,Philadelphia,United States

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thy Kingdom Sucks: Fuck The Boondock Saints

It appears that I have cemented my position in life as "The Movie Guy". This is very cool to me since I am the guy everybody comes to for reviews, recommendations, and explanations. Sadly, there is a downside. As "The Movie Guy" it is unavoidable to become a bit of a snob about what is worth watching and what is utter dreck. Now, unlike many(perhaps more credible)"Movie Guys", I tend to like most everything. Some flicks are better than others, but for the most part, I try to find a reason to enjoy any film I see. Couple that with my ability to avoid films that I know I won't like(Oh, Katherine Heigl, you're my favorite red flag), and I simply can't give a bad review.

On the other hand, when I don't like a movie, you KNOW it has got to be a special kind of terrible. "The Boondock Saints" is that kind of terrible. What makes it worse is that I think I might be the only person who feels this way. People LOVE "Saints" so much that they buy logo shirts, eat food out of logo lunchboxes, dress up as characters for Halloween(or for school!), and even get tattoos to match those of the lead characters. Are you fucking kidding me?!?!? If you get AEQUITAS and VERITAS tattooed anywhere on your body, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease do not procreate(what's really sad is that there's some dumb ho out there that will find said tattoos to be so hot that she'll gladly rock a c-section scar to match her man's ink).

It would be unfair for me to wantonly shit on a movie without giving it one last chance for redemption. Before revisiting it, I had always felt that "Saints" was an alright movie, over-hyped by it's legions of fans. Oh boy, I could not have been more wrong. Upon my recent viewing I discovered that this movie was not only bad, but downright UNWATCHABLE at points. It looks like it was written and directed by me, shot on my porch using a VHS camera, and edited by my narcoleptic uncle(who, for the sake of this article, exists). It is a complete mess, not even worthy of being considered a mildly distracting genre entry.

Let's tear this fucker apart from the opening credits

1. Our characters are introduced in a Church, cuz, ya know, churches in Boston are a sign of a good movie. Our characters get up in the middle of a mass to walk past the priest, kneel down behind the altar to silently pray, and then leave before the mass is done. What a couple of dickheads. Even one priest, who clearly is not in the know, motions to stop them, only to be halted by another priest who seems to say, "Leave them be, they're The Boondock Saints. Ya know, from that movie". This is all despite the fact that they haven't done anything yet to deserve notoriety. As far as were concerned, at this point they're just a couple of brothers who work in a meat-packing plant(appropriate)

2. This brings us to the meat-packing plant, where our favorite zany brothers are enlisted to train an amalgamation of lesbian stereotypes on how to pack meat. Somehow this results in the two boys beating up this woman. Luckily, they have Irish accents which make this beating light-hearted and fun rather than violent and criminal. Naturally they are fired and must go drink because guess's Saint Patricks Day. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY Ireland!

3. We now meet their friends, Italian Stereotype, and Bartender-With-A-Parodical-Case-Of-Tourrette's. We are introduced to Italian Stereotype by way of a freeze-frame with an onscreen profile of who he is and why we should care(we shouldn't). This device is used for some characters and not for others, and only seems to pop up when the script needs to add "depth" without actually writing anything. It's a grand old time at the bar until suddenly a few Russian Mafia guys(security guard type Americans who are doing their best Ivan Drago)appear and want to close the bar because of mafia things. This results in a fight. Ireland wins.

4. Uh-oh, the Russians are dead! What happened? This non-linear narrative is confusing me! Oh wait, it's just Troy Duffy thinking he's a director again. Tarantino does things out of order, that's what makes him a good director right? No what makes him a good director is his attention to film detail, his incredible dialogue work, and his ability to evoke great performances from his players. You, Mr. Duffy, are using a gimmick. Good filmmakers alter narratives, but using altered narratives don't necessarily mean you're a good filmmaker.

5. Our host to the madness is good ol' Willem Dafoe...who SUCKS DICK in this movie both figuratively and literally. He plays an FBI agent who is called in to investigate these murders for no reason. It's treated as if it were the latest in a string of unsolved serial killings. It's not. As far as the local police can tell, the crime scene looks like a bar fight gone awry(which it was). So naturally they requested FBI assistance so that they could all stand around and read lines of dialogue ripped from a childhood game of Cops & Robbers. Dafoe treats us to a description of the crime coupled with a boring slo-motion(oooooooooooh, aaaaaaaah) depiction.

6. Did I mention that Willem Dafoe is gay for no reason? The script seems to call for him to be gay merely so that the film can portray yet another negative stereotype. Anywho, Dafoe fingers(not literally, although I'm sure he thought about it) the "Saints" for the murders and then sets them free. Ah yes the classic self-defense...uh..defense. Before they can be set free, however, they must spend the night in the world's leakiest prison cell. It is in their beds, under two identical leaks, that the "Saints" opt not to move their beds, and instead are "blessed" by the rain. Ya know, cuz Catholicism rules, just like Ireland. They look into each other's eyes and, without saying a word to each other, decide to buy a bunch of guns and become renegade killers for fun. The catch, they only kill criminals(like Dexter, only completely shitty in every way)

7. The formula continues from here. Willem Dafoe shows up at a crime scene, bitches at some cops for a bit, and then describes what happened. We see what happened. We move on. There are two scenes of note peppered into this mix. One is a scene where Italian Stereotype meets up with his Mafia boss and Ron Jeremy. He is made to tell an unfunny joke and is corrected by RJ and boss to use the term "Nigger" instead of "black guy" which is supposed to be funny. It's not. The other notable scene is one in which the "Saints" walk into a fully loaded arms cabinet(they know a guy, I guess) and inexplicably trade a watch, a beeper, and two handguns, for carte blanche access to take as muany guns and as much ammo as they can carry.

8. At this point our Saints have pissed off local mafiosos(the leader of which switches from an Italian accent to a Middle-Eastern accent flawlessly), and the mafia decides to call in "Il Duce", a killer so cold-hearted and evil, that he's the mafia's only hope to contain the Saints. He is being kept in a high-security prison, and must be shackled and caged just to be transported. He is paroled. Why? Cuz the script said he should be. Folks have argued that the mafia has the ability to use their "connections" to free this man as they please. If this is the case, why would this man that they keep shackled until they need him feel any desire to help the mob?

9. Willem Dafoe now treats us to yet another crime scene reenactment, only this time there are a few twists: One, Willem Dafoe acts out the scene along with the Saints, and two, his description of what happened is different than what actually happened. Dafoe believes the Saints were ambushed by six men with guns. WRONG! Actually they were ambushed by one man with six guns! I guess this is what made Il Duce so dangerous. He carries six guns! No wonder the mob called him in to help. This is where this already broken movie simply falls apart. Why would the mob send one guy in to ambush a place where they KNEW the Saints would be when they could have sent 50? I don't know. Why would four men with shit-tons of ammo shooting at each other from a distance of 10 feet be unable to kill each other? I don't know. I guess Il Duce isn't as dangerous as we once thought.

10. Willem Dafoe gets drunk, and is inspired to join the Saints. They welcome him via payphone and are captured by the mob soon after. Italian stereotype is killed. Boo hoo. Willem Dafoe gets wind of this, and within seconds, devises and enacts a plan to dress in drag and ambush the mob. Oh wait! NOW I know why he was written as gay. It was so it could easily be explained as to why Dafoe had such fast access to womens clothing. Good thing this plothole was explained. I was worried this movie would stop making sense.

11. Guess what? Il Duce is the Saints' father and everything's ok. How do we know this? Il Duce prays the same as the Saints. Good news, it seems having and insatiable bloodlust and a desire to be a dickhead runs in the family.

12. The newly founded trio steps into court(with the help of Dafoe) and murders the defendant because it's the right thing to do. And Ireland. Don't forget Ireland. Credits are rolled and I assume that none of the armed police officers in the courtroom found it appropriate to kill the Saints because there is apparently a sequel. I almost want to watch it. Almost.

PS. If you have to audacity to recommend this movie to me at any point PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEEEASE do not act as if nobody has heard of this movie and you're some genius letting me in on a secret. Everyone has heard of this movie. EVERYONE. That's like recommending Starbucks to somebody as if it were a top secret coffee facility. Only I'd much rather drink Starbucks than watch The Boondock Saints.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scott's Review: The Green Hornet(2011)

Remakes. It's nothing new for Hollywood to remake movies, or make TV shows into movies. Green Hornet was a movie from the early 40s and a TV show in the late 60s,neither of which I saw, nor the movie based on the show in the 70's? I'm confused. My only previous knowledge of this franchise is Bruce Lee. So if you're a die hard fan of any of the previous Green Hornets, show or movies, and want to know how true to the "original" whatever you watched first is, stop here because I went to see this movie as most movies including this one and all it's predecessors of the same name were intended to do. Entertain.

3D. Another bug that has bitten Hollywood before and seems to come back every so often, I'd like to say that it gets better each time. So the question going into this movie was "will this be another completely unoriginal remake that just fails to entertain and succeeds in taking my money and a few extra bucks for the 3D?" Luckily, we have a few weapons on our side to fight the good fight.

In this corner, fighting against unoriginal and bland, recycled scripts, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The writers of Pineapple Express and Superbad. Also in this corner, taking on forced, trite, overly done 3D: Michel Gondry, the director of many beautiful movies. So out of respect and appreciation for Gondry, I chose to spend the few extra dollars on 3D. I'd say it was worth it, but not necessarily required. The movie was very visually pleasing throughout and Michel Gondry puts his stamp on it, which is always in the plus column as far as I'm concerned. Not his best work, but one of the best for the masses as well as people who may not be familiar with, or appreciate his work. As far as the writing, it kept me in the movie and kept me laughing throughout. This movie pushed 2 hours and at no point did I check my watch(phone of course). It had the typical Seth Rogen that people pretend to be tired of and he is comediclly supplemented by the little Karate guy that is just
learning English. Oh and of course, there is a love triangle. Yet, It doesn't get old and consistently entertains unlike many other movies.

This movie is a January release which usually means that it isn't trying to win awards. It is not a summer blockbuster either. There aren't any "standout" performances, yet everyone does their job and each are completely believable in what roles they do play (including Christoph Waltz in his first role since his award winning 'Hans Landa' in Inglorious Basterds). At no point do I, as the viewer, feel like I paid too much, or like I'm wasting my time on this movie. It's a breath of fresh air (filled with fake butter, popcorn and old hotdogs) at the movies that just reminds me that movies are meant to entertain.

Green Hornet doesn't try too hard. Doesn't claim to be a typical super hero movie. Doesn't fit any stereotypical mold. It's simply meant to entertain you for the two hours that it is on screen and it succeeds in doing that. Unlike some other January "filler" movies, it makes you feel like your money and time were well spent, even with the extra cost of 3D. And to quote a friend, "There is a reason they sell popcorn at the movies"(Editors note: That friend was ME!).


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Message to the Studios

Dear Studio People From the Movies,

I know that it is customary for role-seeking actors to submit themselves to an audition, but considering my rising star status, I feel that it is you, studio people, who should be auditioning for me. You want me in your movies.

Need action? Call me. Need eye candy for the ladies? Call me. Have a script that needs work? Call me. Stunts? Me. Sex? Me. Special effects? Me. Low-quality hack work? Fuck off! Get someone else.

My range as an actor is unbelievable. I have found success portraying dramatic characters(as evidenced in the student film "Jell-o Dolly"), comedic characters (see my superior portrayal of the character Biff Tannen in my personal remake of Back to the Future), and can even do fantastic 'adult' work(gigantic and beautiful penis).

Being that I am way too busy with my career, and well behind on 'Breaking Bad', I have decided to offer you, Mr/Mrs studio executive guy, an opportunity to sample my Lawrence Olivier-like abilities via e-mail.

My first (and only) acting teacher taught me that "acting is acting like you're not acting". Also, she taught me that most acting teachers are just failed actors who drank themselves into insanity. Also, that first part is actually just a quote from "The Rocketeer" and not from my acting teacher, who was an insane drunkard incapable of forming a coherent thought outside of "Fuck Meryl Streep".

Regardless of my lack of formal training, I was still able to become the brilliant artiste that I am today.

Prepare to have your brains splattered all over the wall behind you! It is time for ACTING!

Let's start with a few basic emotions

Slight Anger:

Notice my use of fist shaking to drive the point home.

Blinding rage:

It is clear here that I have been pushed beyond the point of return and I am now making decisions under duress.

This is a little ditty I'd like to call "Oh, it's you":

You see? I'm trying to be polite, but it is clear that I have disdain for my new acquaintance.

Now I'm sure you're seeing these photos and saying to yourself, "Look at this guy. He's clearly very good. Dare I say one of the best, buuuuuuut I want a SMART leading man! Inception 2: Game Over is a smart movie for smart people!"

You want smart? Oh I can do smart.


Here's a situation. You get a phone call and...uh-oh. Daniel Day-Lewis went bernanners and can't perform. You need a character actor, and you need one now. Look no further, I can do characters. Here's a character I created. His name is Gary and he's a Batman enthusiast.

Believable as can be. I've often been told that I look like a completely different person when I do this character.

Well, I wasn't going to do this. I'm not really even supposed to do this, but since you're considering hiring me, I'll let this one slide. I'm secretly at work on the set of "Funny Bunches of Oates~A Comedic Retrospective into the Life of John Oates". Here's a photo of my work from the set


I'm sure you're hoping that this formality has come to an end so that you can rush to your phone and send a call to my agent(me). Well don't jump up too fast, I've got a few scenes to act out for you.
I call this one "My wife is falling off a cliff and I can't hold on"


"In Soviet Russia, movie make you!!"

These next two go together. They're called "You're pregnant?!?!?" and "about that baby..."

And I leave you now with my finest creation:
"Getting a boner right before having to deliver a eulogy"

Thank you for your time studio guy/lady. Also, you're welcome for my time. My agents, myself, and the world are waiting for your call.
Dan Scully

"We've done a good thing here today"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dan and Scott Review The Fighter

It’s a tradition amongst me and my friends to see a movie on Christmas. Once our collective families have drunkenly driven themselves home from their cheesy-sweater laden festivities, the night is usually still young, and my friends and I play like Jews for a few hours by checking out whatever the hot ticket at the multiplex happens to be. Most of the time, it turns out to be a great time (last year was Sherlock Holmes), but sometimes it proves to be awful(Fuck you, AVP:Requiem). This year was probably the most exceptional year so far, for not only did we rock the double feature, but both movies were quite good. We saw “True Grit”(as did all other Christmas moviegoers) and “The Fighter”. My buddy and fellow film lover, Scott Pagnotti, went to both of these movies together, it’s only fair that he be included in the conversation.

Dan: Welcome Scott, Happy 2011, fuckface! It’s been 6 years since we’ve last heard from David O. Russell. Wait, scratch that. We’ve heard plenty from Russell. I refer of course to the on-set argument between him and Lily Tomlin that circled the video-interwebz in which he calls her the C-word. Yes, that C-word. It has been 6 years, however, since his last feature, “I Heart Huckabees”, a movie that’s so wildly different than his even earlier feature, 1999’s “Three Kings”, that I was very curious to see what “The Fighter” would do for me. To the uninitiated, “The Fighter “ is the true story of fighter Mickey Ward(Mark Wahlberg), and his one last shot at a title before he’s too old to make another go at it. At his back is his brother, former prize fighter Dickey Ecklund(Christian Bale), his mother/trainer(Melissa Leo), as well as the rest of his wickedly dysfunctional family. Along the way he meets Amy Adams, who eventually has sex with him and then me. Yes, I’ll take sloppy seconds to Wahlberg.
Going into this movie, I had low expectations, and I can’t figure out why! It has a fantastic cast, including what looked like the first time in years that Christian Bale hasn’t played a somber grumbly, and is lead by one of the few directors that can coax believability out of Mark Wahlberg. It’s not that Wahlberg is a particularly weak actor or anything, but watching a “Shooter” or “The Happening” Wahlberg is more than a few shades different than watching a “Huckabees” or “Boogie Nights” Wahlberg. Wahlberg. Say it. Waaaahhhhhhlberg. David O. Russell has featured Marky Mark prominently in his last three films, and to date, they are some of his finest work as an actor. Despite all of this, I wasn’t expecting much.

Scott: My anticipation was, well, I really didn't have any. To me this was just another Rocky, starring the guy from Invincible, directed by the guy who beat up Lily Tomlin and costarring the guy who beat up a camera man. I guess Russell Crowe was too busy filming Cinderella Man 2. At the very least this movie would be a few laughs. So I donned my yarmulke and traveled to the local movie theatre to see who "The Fighter" actually was. I got much more than a few laughs. The acting and direction painted a picture of a dark, depressing tunnel with a small light which seemed just ahead at every turn, but would we ever see it?

Dan: Not quite sure that Russell beat up Lily Tomlin. Actually, I'm positive he didn't, but for our purposes not only did he beat her up...he beat her to death. Yes, let it be known that Lily Tomlin died for "I Heart Huckbees", a movie in which she was sharing female lead status with Naomi Watts. The lead female role in The Fighter was also shared and was, in my opinion, the strongest part of the movie. Amy Adams, who is terribly gorgeous(despite playing some serious white trash), goes head to head with another actress who is pulling her own weight quite heavily lately, Melissa Leo(who was introduced to me in the criminally underwatched HBO series "Treme"). To look at Melissa Leo in The Fighter is not to recognize her. In fact, it wasn't until midway through the flick that I even realized who she was, which is a testament to how talented she is(or how unobservant I am. Probably a bit of both). This also spoke to me in terms of Russell as a director. His notoriously loud-mouthed and angry ways seem to be working. Not a single character in this movie leaves any slack behind, performance-wise. The only flaw in the character-work for me, was found in the harem of trashy sisters that Ward has in his family. The flaw, however, is not in performance, but rather in the underwritten status of these characters. Perhaps a little more family backstory could have added a depth to the women as individuals as opposed to being treated(and being featured on screen ALWAYS) as a group. I can see, however, that such a change may have affected the pace of the movie, which was definitely one of it's strengths.

Scott: Dan, I totally agree with what you said about Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. In my opinion they may have been the strongest characters. Christian Bale's character being a drug addict, the father being fearful of the mother majority of the film, Micky's character himself who seemed to transform from indecisive and scared of his family to head strong and in control of himself by the end. As far as the sisters, I believe they played the "sheep" in the movie. Although, I'd rather fuck a sheep. They were fearful and unquestioning to the mother throughout the movie (with the exception of one fantastic scene which showed the spite the mother was capable of) and also just emphasized the mother's control over the family. The step sisters from Cinderella also come to mind in the way they were just an extension of the mother. Unlike Cinderella though, in "The Fighter", all these women did in fact care about the central character in their own weird twisted way, and as much as you may hate them one second you are very sympathetic the next.

Dan: I like what you said about the ugly sister squad being the mother's sheep. It is very interesting to watch the father grow from someone who gives in to his wife(who seems to be training Micky for her own personal gain), into a man who tries his hardest to do right by his son, even if it means angering his family in the process. Like I said before, to introduce a background to the daughters may have offset the pacing of the movie and hurt it. As it stands, the pace of the movie was just right. Heavy drama would give way to lighthearted dialogue and then flow into boxing seamlessly and without that "this is taking forever" feeling. Even the boxing sequences were handled with aplomb, and upon youtube researching, were quite accurate(if not slightly cinematized) down to the announcers. I've heard people complain that a movie called The Fighter" should have had more boxing. It's true that the boxing sequences were few and far between, but I havent seen boxing committed to film so skillfully since "Cinderella Man". Despite the lack of boxing, there was certainly an excess of fighting(ohhhhhhh now I get it). Moms yelling at daughters, brothers yelling at brothers, girlfriends yelling at sisters, even convicts yelling at Christian Bale(who yells back as if they were a room of lighting assistants BOOM!). Another thing that was very strong in this movie was its use of small amounts of humor to lighten the mood, as well as make some scenes more tragic. Bale, surprisingly, brings a wealth of humor to the proceedings, due to his flamboyant personality(the aformentioned convict/yelling scene comes to mind), but simultaneously his character is aware of his own charm and uses it to manipulate others, such as a terribly heartbreaking scene in which he sings to, and eventually with, his mother to distract her from the fact that she just picked him up from a crackhouse. Sound like Oscar bait? Well it would be if it weren't handled with such skill by everyone involved.

Scott: I like to consider myself a boxing fan. Not enthusiast, or die hard fan(although I love Die Hard) but a boxing fan nevertheless. Ward retired in 2003, I started watching boxing slightly before that. I remember his fights with Arturo Gatti, and remember seeing his fight with Shea Neary. During the film at one point I remember hearing someone say "Now they're Rocky fighting" and thinking, "No, they're Micky Ward fighting" because this brought me back to his few fights that I had seen. And like you Dan, I also went to YouTube that night and watched some of his fights and Russel (David O., not Crowe) did a remarkable job recreating the fights as well as the actors. From the commentating, to the trunks and gloves and almost hit for hit. Needless to say I spent the next few days watching old boxing matches. As far as the humor, it is played off so well. No jokes per say, just excellent chemistry. Lines that if I were to post would be lost on anyone who hasn't seen the movie, yet make anyone who has laugh. Most of these lines of course were delivered by Bale. The humor behind them is just another part of this complex character that Christian Bale became. People may be tired of hearing how great he was in this movie, but not only was this the role of a lifetime, he just was the role.

Dan: People will be talking about Christian Bale's role a lot. He did a fantastic job, but I do feel that the reason he's being lauded so highly is that it's been such a long time since we've seen him step out of the mold he has built for himself, but I'm not going to let that sway my opinion. When he does step out of the mold it is always a treat. There's a reason why Christian Bale has been in everything ever...he's fucking good. In closing I'd like to state that this movie was a success because it was exactly the sum of it's parts, all of which are great. Solid acting, a script that embraces convention skillfully, and a director that clearly knows what he's doing, have all been combined to create a solid day at the movies. Interesting sidenote: I've come to respect Russell as a director. The subject matter/genre of his films have been so widely varied, all the while keeping the quality high. Plus, if you can extract a great performance from Mark Wahlberg, that puts you into a league with Scorsese, which is naturally a good place to be.

Scott: Great acting. Great directing. Great story. Even a great soundtrack. I recommend this movie for anyone who's not offended by rated R movies and actually likes being entertained. Not Oscar bait, but definitely Oscar worthy.

Dan's Rating 8/10
Scott's Rating 9/10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Philadelphia Film Fest Review: Hesher

HOOOOOOOHOHOHOHOHOOOOOOOLY SHIT, I LOVED "Hesher"! Not just loved in that "Wow! What a movie!" kinda way, but loved in that "this movie will forever own a piece of my soul, even if it treats me poorly or hits me(which it probably would)" kinda way. It certainly didn't hurt that the screening was scheduled almost immediately after the oh-so-disappointing "High School", and it REALLY didn't hurt that the movie was FUCKING AWESOME!!!!AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! IM SCREAMING!

"Hesher" is the story of a family in ruins. Having just suffered the loss of his mother, our young hero(?) TJ is not coping well. His father, Paul(played BRILLIANTLY by Rainn Wilson) is frustrated, defeated, and relying on pills to ease his pain. The rock of their family comes in the form of the grandmother, Madeleine(Piper Laurie, who has immersed herself in thie role almost to the point of non-recognition), who wants nothing more than to be noticed by her family.

TJ is feeling rebellious and angry and decides to take it out on a random window. He smashes the glass and is immediately introduced to the true hero of the movie, Hesher. Hesher(Joseph Gordon Levitt in yet another role that proves he will be remembered as one of the greats) is a mystery. On the surface he looks like your average heavy metal-er: skinny, dirty, and tatooed all over his body. Underneath his exterior is a...well..I'm not sure. I do know that he's a deep guy, just not sure how deep. We don't know where he's from, how he got to be the way he is, or how he has managed to stay out of jail. We do know that he appears to have no family, no friends, and a dirty old van that he probably lives in. Hesher doesn't give a fuck about rules. Hesher doesn't give a fuck about watching his mouth. Hesher smokes like a chimney, listens to heavy metal, and gets off on confrontation and property destruction.

Hesher immediately invites himself to move in with TJ and his family(literally by coming inside, sitting down, and not leaving), and despite his disgustingly crass behavior, seems to fit in. Hesher's insistence upon doing whatever the fuck he feels like brings a feeling of normalcy and calm to a tumultuous family situation. TJ and his father quietly accept his presence, while Madeleine is enamored with his youthful(to her) exuberance. Enter Nicole(Natalie Portman, acting Oh-so-girl-next-door-like) to play the polar opposite of Hesher. Nicole is a loner with a mysterious past, much like Hesher. Unlike Hesher, however, her apparently troubled history has manifested itself in a soft-spoken kindness that also strikes a chord with young TJ. These two opposing mentor characters naturally attract, drawing Hesher, Nicole, and TJ into a powerfully disfunctional(and sometimes very comic) trio.
The film progesses with Hesher causing trouble, Nicole and TJ escaping the trouble, and then TJ and his family reluctantly learning something from it. It sounds predictable. It's not. Not that there are any surprises, it's just that the narrative of this movie has such a unique life to it.
"Hesher," much like it's titular character is rude, dirty, vulgar, and surprisingly brutal(you should see the beatings that young TJ takes at the hands of reckless bike rides), all the while being deep, and moralistic at heart. I can't wait to buy it and show everybody why I've been freaking out about this movie after having seen it alone at the festival. I NEED to talk to someone about this little monster, but I really can't capture the feel of this terribly unique film without saying more than I'd like.

God damn I loved this movie.

What I liked about it:
-JGL in the mo' fucking HIZ-ouse! The dude creates such a unique character with Hesher, and effectively makes you forget that its JGL behind the METAL!
-Rainn Wilson did the opposite of what he's known to do. He plays his character straight, leaving every ounce of hammy-ness on the side, only allowing his silly demeanor to ooze through ever so slightly in his mannerisms. It's brilliant. Gah!
-Devin Brochu(TJ) is an actor that I have never seen before, and only once since(in the delightfully odd "Rubber"), but despite his youth and lack of experience, he captures what its like to be a rambunctious adolescent boy. Fuck that kid from "Where the Wild Things Are". I did like that movie, but the lead was pretty unlikable throughout. Brochu is at all times likable and genuine. Also, as i've mentioned, his character takes a beating and it looks as if he may have done his own stunts, but don't quote me on it.
-The quick heavy metal music cues that punch into your ears whenever Hesher appears.
-The best bully comeuppance I think I've ever seen.
-Old ladies smoking bongs will never not be fun to watch.
-Piper Laurie played such a beautiful character. She reminded me of my very recently departed grandmother(love you Nana), and showed me a small window into what it must feel like living into one's 80s. It is truly a great performance of a very nicely written character.
-The fact that I saw this movie before any of my idiot friends, giving me ample time to overhype it, leaving them underwhelmed. I'm sick and this is fun for me.

What I didn't like about it:
-The fact that I saw this movie before any of my idiot friends, giving me ample time to overhype it, leaving them underwhelmed.
-Nothing. Even the sappy ending has a hard enough edge to keep me satisfied.

Would this movie have benefitted from Tom Hanks?
In such a perfectly cast movie, with so few characters, it would be hard to squeeze him in, buuuuuuuuuuuut I'm never above a little T to the Hanks, so maybe he could have been used as an extra. He might have worked in the role of the car impound lot manager, but since you don't know who that is, it makes no difference. Of course an alternate version with Hanks AS Hesher might be worth sinking a few millions into(this would be shot entirely for my entertainment, since releasing a remake to theaters would be a sin against humanity).

If this were a musical, what would be the title song?
It would play out in the style of a rock-opera, only much heavier. The title would be "Hey! Rock YOU!"

Going into the movie what did I expect?
To quote my friend who scooped me on the movie(and then couldn't come see it): "Duuuuude it's about some heavy metal dude that fucks shit up and sets fires and stuff. Its supposed to be funny but dude get this.....the heavy metal guy, ya know, Hesher, is played by, dude wait for it......JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT!" that is all I knew, and as a result I expected to see the best movie ever.

Were my expectations met?
Yes, which is such a metal thing for a movie to do.

My review for the box:
"This movie made me want to go see this movie again!"

So long credibility...10 out of 10!!!!